The one New Year’s goal our nation needs

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, January 7, 2015

At the beginning of a new year, we stand at the cusp of possibility. We have the chance for a fresh start. And though the start of the New Year may not bring with it a completely blank slate, it at least offers an opportunity to recalibrate. We find ourselves considering where we’ve been in the year before and what we want to become in the year ahead.

For many people, myself included, this recalibration manifests itself in the form of goals. This year as I thought of goals for myself, I also found myself thinking of the goals I would set for our nation. I thought of economic policy goals, national defense goals, goals for our budget and many others. Those are all important legislative issues that touch mainstays of our society. But if there were one overarching goal I could set for our country — one that reaches across industries, legislative policies, and national issues — it would be this:

To be a nation that builds instead of a nation that repairs.

America comes from a steep tradition of building. Out of chaos, uncertainty, and the desire for freedom, the first generation of Americans built a country based on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since that point, our history has been sprinkled with stories of incredible builders. Jonas Salk constructed a vaccine for polio — and produced a medical breakthrough for humanity. Henry Ford built the concept of a moving assembly line — and changed the face of American manufacturing. Andrew Higgins built the LCVP boat — and gave our military the ability to transport thousands of soldiers to open shore, ultimately leading us to victory in World War II. NASA built the Apollo rocket program — and we put a man on the moon. The Wright Brothers built an airplane — and opened a new way of travel that spans the globe.

Behind those feats was a national government cheering and mobilizing in support of those innovations. We celebrated huge national successes. We witnessed defining moments in history.

We haven’t seen that government in quite some time. Instead of being the entity to help propel innovation, the federal government is holding it back.

There is a simple reason: resource allocation. The federal government is so focused on repairing broken policies that it has little time to think towards the future. Instead of thinking of ways to encourage innovative discovery, the federal government is repairing mistakes in the implementation of the healthcare law, the effects of sequestration, badly strained political relationships, a myriad of scandals, an out of control deficit and an overall dysfunctional government. In other words, the federal government is playing defense, rather than playing offense. It’s putting out fires instead of lighting the way to the next defining moment.

Yet through it all, American individuals and businesses have continued to build. Steve Jobs and his company built a computer, and an iPod, and an iPhone — and changed the way we communicate. Dr. Francis Collins and his team of scientists mapped and sequenced the human genome — and advanced biological knowledge of human health. Larry Page and Sergey Brin built Google — and changed the way we look for information.

The American propensity to build continues to sustain us and launch us forward. That value is deeply engrained in our society, and I believe American individuals and businesses will always look for ways to build a better future for themselves.

But imagine what could be done if our goal was for an American government that builds instead of one that repairs? What if our government had the capacity to create the best possible environment for innovators, so that they can be more agile, creative and efficient? There is a clear way to do this: by giving individuals and businesses the tools necessary to innovate and excel, and by cutting the red tape that is choking vital American industries. The federal government can build America by simply getting out of the way and empowering individuals and businesses — not the federal government — to do what they do best.

We could encourage a renewed emphasis on math and science education for our students, so they can maintain our competitive edge as they enter the workforce and eventually become the driving strength behind our economy. We could lift the weight of government bureaucracy off the shoulders of our manufacturing industry to create opportunity for increased global competitiveness, national innovation and an increase in American jobs. We could be on the frontiers of new medical breakthroughs by reinvesting in our medical research infrastructure, putting patient first and choosing medical innovation over medical regulation. We could put medicine in the hands of researchers rather than bureaucrats. The potential is limitless.

Here at the beginning of 2015, we stand at the possibility of possibilities. The most important goal we can set is one that empowers Americans to do what we’ve always done best. I want to be a nation that builds.

RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For contact information, see